The Execution Premium, a Book Review

Book Title: The Execution Premium – Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage

Authors: Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton.

My Rating: 4/5

Brief Review

This is a book that contributes to a series of books by the authors on the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) which is a strategic tool for performance management. The previous books that preceded this book and talk about BSC are (in chronological order): The Balanced Scorecard, The Strategy Focused Organization, Strategy Maps, and Alignment.

The book – The Execution Premium – aims at closing the loop of strategy management by introducing the Execution Premium Process (XPP), and focuses on strategy execution and techniques of linking strategy to operations.

What I most liked about this book

I very much enjoyed the comprehensiveness of this book on strategy management, end-to-end. It gives a great overview of the full cycle and, in my opinion, the book is a great first read although it came the last of a series of five books on the subject. It’s full of case studies of commercial, not-for-profit, and government organizations. It’s very well structured with one or two chapters on each stage of the process in sequence. Case studies are spread across the different chapters while supporting each other.

You will also find lots of sample and real strategy maps and balanced scorecards that will enrich your discussions if you are planning to develop strategy and translate it in your organization.

What I most hated about this book:

Well, although I liked the case studies presented in the book, I hated the fact that most of them are old (10-15 years ago). I felt like they were doing research on companies in the nineties and early 2000s, and suddenly stopped to increase the ROI of those existing case studies. The book is relatively new (2008), and knowing that the balanced scorecard benefits can be realized in 2-3 years, I wanted to see more if note all of the case studies pertaining to 2005 onwards. I was always wondering how the companies presented in the case studies are doing at the moment and whether their success is sustained.

Also, I wanted to see more of failed strategies than successful ones. There is one or two examples of how failed strategies been recovered, but that’s not enough. I would love to see how failed strategies or execution affected organizations, big or small, public or private!

Another thing is how tough the talk about operations and finance concepts and tools was. This is definitely my issue as I need to advance my knowledge in these areas. For me, and those who might share the same introductory levels of these subjects, chapter 6 and 7 are tough reads.

Another minor thing is the naming of the second stage of the process as “Plan the Strategy” though out the book. The authors mean and talk about “Translate the Strategy” (as depicted by a recent figure shown above), but choosing “Plan the Strategy” is definitely misleading. Not a big deal! once you know what they mean is “translate” more than “plan”, you can build a mental model to do automatic translation to the correct term and off you go.

In Summary

This is a great book that will enable you to understand the subject of strategy, execution, and the balanced scorecard in relatively easy ways. Don’t hesitate to get one, and please use the comments below in case you came across better books on the subject.